Thursday, May 29, 2008

Spring Time Means Butterflies, Part III

The monarch awakens from his slumber and dries his wings.

The rare malachite sups by water's edge.  

The tiger swallowtail alights upon a branch.

The cycle begins anew.

Spring Time Means Butterflies Part II

Our caterpillar from yesterday has stopped eating and has entered the pupa stage, turning into a chrysalis. Did you know that while moths pretty much do the same thing, they are said to make cocoons and not a chrysalis?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Spring Time Means Butterflies

For most of us, butterflies and spring time are synonymous. I had the great fortune a few years ago to live close to a butterfly conservatory where I'd spend hours with my kids. We often had the place all to ourselves, and after taking quite a number of photos, I'd sit on one of the benches and simply marvel at the combined beauty of a sunny day, butterflies in all their various life stages, and little girls.

The shots above are of the monarch butterfly in the larva stage, better known as the caterpillar.

Here's another butterfly-to-be in his rather sinister larval state:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Full Moon

Last night's full moon rising up over the mountains was spectacular.  See for yourself.  

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Beauty at my Feet--Part II: Lichens

Fellow lichen-lover Sparky points out TWO different lichens growing on this rock.  

Lichens are just one of the miracles of nature that I find fascinating. At first, you might think lichens are plants.  They're not. Maybe a fungus?  Well, could be, but that's only partially correct. Lichens are actually composite and symbiotic organisms made up from members of as many as three kingdoms.  Here's a bit more, from one of my favorite lichen sites:  
"The dominant partner is a fungus.  Fungi are incapable of making their own food.  They usually provide for themselves as parasites or decomposers... These lichen fungi cultivate partners that manufacture food by photosynthesis. Sometimes the partners are algae (kingdom Protista), other times cyanobacteria (kingdom Monera), formerly called blue-green algae.  Some enterprising fungi exploit both at once.  
It is estimated that lichens are the dominant vegetation on 8% of the earth's terrestrial surface."  

Lichens growing on a spectacular marble boulder.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Beauty at my Feet

Living in the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains affords endless opportunities to hike.  You might think that when I walk I spend all my time admiring the glory and majesty of the soaring peaks and skies above my head.  Not  so.  There are as many wonders at my feet as there are overhead.  

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Importance of Place in Writing

The Stanley Hotel

Think about some of your favorite books and ask yourself what was it that made the book great. For most of us, the first thing that comes to mind will be the characters, but chances are for the books we love best, we cannot bring to mind those characters without recalling the worlds in which they existed.  

Setting is crucial.  And you never know how a visit somewhere new can stir the imagination.  
Case in point:  Spent Saturday in one of my favorite places, Estes Park, Colorado, a small tourist town directly outside the Rocky Mountain National Park.  It is also home to the Stanley Hotel, built by F.O.Stanley (of Stanley Steamer fame) in 1909 and reputed to be haunted by several ghosts. Stephen King and his wife stayed at the Stanley Hotel during the 1970s, prompting him to write The Shining. Here's a view of the Rocky Mountains from the hotel:  

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The AP Scholar Skirt

I finished this skirt late. It was supposed to be for one of my daughter's birthdays. So instead of a birthday skirt, I told her she can wear it for the dreadful AP (Advanced Placement) test on Friday. Works for me.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Book Signing: What's Your Opinion?

For Stephenie Meyer fans, today was a huge day.  Her first non-YA book, The Host, debuted amid a ton of fanfare, including a full-page ad in the NYTimes.   One of my daughters is a huge fan, and last year we went to Meyer's book signing at the Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch.  My daughter REALLY wanted to go to the signing for the new book, which will take place in our area May 19.  

So this morning, I called the bookstore to purchase the book from them at full-price, something I hardly ever do, but Meyer's publisher has instituted quite a number of rules for this event.  Okay, that's $25.99 (could have purchased it from Amazon for close to $16) Oh, and I have to buy a ticket for $2.00.  Well, fine.  I do believe that I should support my local bookstore when I can.  But then I found out that EVERY person who attends the event must buy a book from them and a ticket.  The bookstore employees kept apologizing repeatedly, saying this is the publisher's doing, not theirs.  I am most certainly not paying $56 so that I can accompany my middle schooler.  So now we are not going, and I have bad feelings.  The whole point of these events is to make more money, which is exactly what any corporation should be doing.  HOWEVER,  I wonder if the marketing department has considered that by gouging customers, they are not making friends for the long-term.  

This is such a contrast to the atmosphere for Diana Gabaldon's book signing (the latest Lord John book) we attended last September.  We did not have to pay for tickets; indeed, we didn't even have to buy the new book, but I did because I wanted it, because I adore Diana, and because I wanted to support my local bookstore.  Diana also signed any of her books attendees brought along.  She was gracious and took her time with each person even though I'm sure she was exhausted.  I've noted that Diana's fans are hardcore, and I think this is because not only is she a great writer, but she treats her fans incredibly well.  I do not want to malign Meyer in any way, as I know this is her publisher's doing.  Nonetheless, in the future, I'll just wait my turn at the library for her books.   

So what's your opinion?  

Monday, May 5, 2008

Sparky's Pic

Sparky wanted to share this video with you. Sparky says viewer discretion advised.

"Vintage Dog Video - Queenie in Trouble

Friday, May 2, 2008


When I was a younger pup I listened to the radio on the way home to and from the orifice. I loved Fridays, when the announcer would squeal into the mike: WeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeekEND!!! While he sounded like an insane carnival clown, hearing it made me feel so good I'd laugh out loud, no matter how tense and crappy the work week had been.

Now we celebrate our weekends by driving into downtown Denver (LoDo) and eating at one of the many great restaurants there. Last weekend we indulged in Key Lime Martinis, and when we went home, I looked for a recipe. After much experimentation, I came up with the following recipe. I did use more pineapple juice than called called for, because I don't like my drinks quite that strong. I prefer this cocktail to the Key Lime Pie Martini, which calls for cream,and is therefore way more fattening. (Saw a recipe for a chocolate martini that was over 500 calories!!!)

Anyway, should you decide to create this drink tonight, remember to say "WeeeeeeeeeeeeekEND" before you drink it.

Key Lime Martini For Two
4 shots of Absolut Vanilia Vodka
1 shot simple syrup***
1 shots freshly squeezed lime juice
2 shots pineapple juice

***Simple syrup: Place 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar in sauce pan. Boil until the sugar dissolves. Cool. You can make this ahead of time if desired.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Personality Test for Colorado Women

It snowed today. Yeah, on May 1 no less.

So what does a real Colorado girl do when she wakes up and finds 6-8 inches?

A. Grumble and complain and drag the snow boots out of storage.

B. Stay in bed and enjoy.

Lemon Curd Filling

Here's a recipe for one of my favorite pies, lemon curd. This is a simple recipe, calling for only five ingredients. The filling is tart, yet not bitter, nor sickening sweet. You can make lemon curd filling and keep it in the fridge and spread it on toast. Limes or oranges can be substituted for the lemons. I whip up fresh heavy cream for the topping. YUMMY!!!

Lemon Curd Filling
6 egg yolks, beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 pre-baked pie shell or tart shell
heavy whipping cream

1. Place the beaten egg yolks, the sugar, and the lemon juice in a heavy saucepan and cook over low heat for 10-12 minutes, until the mixture is quite thick. (Seems like the mixture doesn't change at all until the end of the time, and then it suddenly thickens.)

2. Remove from heat, and while the mixture is cooling, drop in a piece of butter at a time, until the butter is fully incorporated. Add the zest and let it cool completely. Pour it into the baked pie/tart shell and refrigerate for several hours before serving. Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

You may be wondering what the difference is between zest and rind.  The black-handled tool in the photo above is a zester, and is designed to only remove the top most layer of the citrus.  On the other hand, if you grate the fruit, you will also get the white part, called the rind (or pith), which is quite bitter.  Zest adds citrus flavor without the bitter taste.